PHILIPPINE customs services are said to be breaking down, with reports of export and import shipments being frozen amid confusion and staff protest resulting from a recent order by Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon for all Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel to return to their permanent plantilla positions.
The revocation of positions took effect starting Sept. 13 for all supervising customs operating officers and all customs operations III; Sept 15 for chief customs operations officers and all customs operations officers V; and Sept 17 for all remaining officers and employees. Personnel under the first category were ordered to report to their original or permanent positions no later than Sept. 23, for the second category Sept 25, and for the third, Sept 27.
The order was issued to allow both the BOC and its mother agency, Department of Finance, to take stock of the bureau’s personnel before reforms are undertaken. (Click http://www.portcalls.com/new-ph-customs-deputy-commissioners-announced/ for related story).
Customs employees circulated an email announcing a protest rally on Sept 17 at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) in the North Harbor.
“Please be informed that all Bureau of Customs employees are now conducting a rally at MICP, all operations are ON HOLD (no processing and releasing),” read the email. On Sept 16 they staged a noise barrage at the port.
Christian Lozano, commercial director of International Container Terminal Services, Inc, said there was no slowdown at the ICTSI-operated MICP.
Association of International Shipping Lines (AISL) general manager Atty. Max Cruz in a text message to PortCalls said foreign shipping lines are “closely monitoring developments and observing the possible impact on vessel operations if the apparent uneasiness and confusion of some customs officers caused by the back-to-the-mother-unit policy is prolonged.”
AISL groups 42 foreign shipping lines operating in the Philippines.
Suspension of operations in BOC-PEZA Cebu
The aftershocks of the order are being felt as far south as the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) industrial parks in Cebu, where processing of transactions at the BOC-PEZA and Customs-PEZA Clearance Office (CPCO) were on Tuesday (Sept 17) ordered halted “until further notice” by Atty. Francisco Jose F. Matugas II, customs collector and officer in charge-collector of the Mactan Economic Zone.
Matugas said there were no plantilla positions in the BOC-PEZA office and none of his staff was authorized to handle them.
The BOC-PEZA covers industrial parks in Cebu province, led by the Mactan Economic Processing Zones 1 and 2, which together hosted more than 200 locators as of Dec. 31, 2012.
Matugas’ order also covers customs services at the Cebu Light Industrial Park with 35 locators in Lapu-Lapu City; the Mitsumi electronics manufacturing complex in Danao City which exports electronic parts like camera modules, micro actuators and input devices; industries in the New Cebu Township One Special Ecozone in Naga town led by Japanese crystal device maker Kyocera, as well as the Tsuneishi shipyard in Balamban.
Meanwhile, Ruperto Bayocot, president of the Confederation of Truckers Association of the Philippines, said truckers were still hauling import shipments out of the piers because cargoes whose “documents they processed yesterday (Sept 16) can be withdrawn today and tomorrow (Sept 17 and 18).”
If the customs personnel do not process transactions until Friday, truckers won’t be able to withdraw any imports on Monday, Bayocot said.
Port Users Confederation Inc. president Dominador de Guzman told PortCalls the group had written a letter to Biazon requesting deferment of “the implementation (of the recall) until temporary personnel are assigned.”
“It’s really affecting the operations of the stakeholders because of the delays in releasing their shipments in the port,” De Guzman said.
Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines president Arnel Gamboa echoed the sentiment of other stakeholders. “There are economic losses in revenue when you stop the flow of goods,” he said in a text message.
The situation would also cause additional costs to logistics providers, he said, “starting with demurrage and detention charges…lead-time extensions (that) can lead to lost sales opportunities,” Gamboa said.
Fast Logistics president and chief operating officer Enrique Castillo said that for suppliers, “this could mean penalties imposed by retailers.”
Offline e2m system
In another development, the BOC’s electronic-to-mobile (e2m) server was offline late night of Sept. 16 until mid-afternoon of Sept 17 , leaving ICTSI’s Lozano to comment that it would be “creating a backlog affecting all port users and import releasing will be heavily affected” if it continued for days.
But the system was back online before 3pm on Sept 17.
A staff at the customs’ e2m help desk explained in an email the system shutdown was technical. “The SAN (storage area network) storage switch was turned off last night (Sept 16) when the New UPS (uninterrupted power supply) was energized resulting in a lost connection between the database server and Hitachi. Recovery is now in progress. e2m will be up momentarily. The database server lost connection to the storage, resulting in the downtime,” the staff said.
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